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This House believes the House of Lords should be reformed
This House believes the House of Lords should be reformed
The House of Lords is seen by some as an antiquated addition to our government structure, a mockery of modern democracy and an inhibiting influence in the drive for progress. While the function of a second chamber is recognised as beneficial as it ensures checks and balances on the activity of the House of Commons, the composition of its members reflects a society long past, a reminder of a time when equality was not a social aspiration. New Labour’s first stage of reform in 1999 did some work to reduce hereditary peers in the House of Lords (now standing at 92), but since then the gradual phasing in of reforms that was proposed has failed to materialise. Many advocates of democracy and the right of law are now calling for these reforms to be completed, to abolish members of birth right and to introduce an electorally voted body to ensure that the House of Lords is as fully democratic as the rest of our country claims to be. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg presented The House of Lords Reform Draft Bill and the accompanying White Paper to Parliament on 17 May 2011. It proposed reform to a smaller, 80%-elected House with 15-year maximum terms for elected peers. Whether or not this bill will be met with enthusiasm, apathy or disdain, and whether or not it will prove to the greater good for the House of Lords and government of Britain, is yet to be seen.
 Ward, Halina, ‘House of Lords Reform, long-termism and Future Generations’, (23 May 2011) viewed on 1 June 2011 http://blog.localdemocracy.org.uk/2011/05/23/house-of-lords-reform-long-termism-and-future-generations/
|Points For||Points Against|
|The current House of Lords is undemocratic||The House of Lords allows a number of experts to influence government policy.|
|The House of Lords is out of touch with the electorate.||Reform would make the House of Lords simply a mirror of the House of Commons|
|The House of Lords has an inbuilt conservative majority.||Democracy should not be the end-point aspiration of government.|
|Reform would strengthen the House of Lords||The public is apathetic to reform.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
The current House of Lords is undemocratic
The House of Lords is undemocratic. Currently the members of the House of Lords consist of hereditary peers, senior members of the Church of England and those appointed by political parties. Whether or not there is an abuse of power or the outcome of the House of Lords is beside the point – its very existence in its current state is undemocratic and as such it should be reformed. It seems nonsensical that a country that lectures to the rest of the world the importance of democracy, to the point of war, should overlook such a grievance in their own society.Improve this
Although the House of Lords may not be a true expression of ‘democracy’, it has a positive function in the governing of the country and is based in a tradition and heritage that the people of Britain should not try and abandon. One could argue in return that those very decisions and wars that Britain is in involved in to defend ‘democracy’ do not reflect the will of the people and that modern states are not true democracies at all. In practice the British people have a limited say in how the country is run and it would be naïve to champion the idea of Britain being a ‘democracy’ by ignoring the existence of such an overpowering state machine.Improve this
The House of Lords is out of touch with the electorate.
The 19th century US President Abraham Lincoln stated that democracy should be ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people’ Therefore peers who sit in the house based on noble birth right or their membership of the Church of England, that is itself largely ignored by the people, do not represent the people of Britain.
 A' Short Definition of Democracy’, Democracy-building.info, 2005, viewed on 1 June 2011 http://www.democracy-building.info/definition-democracy.html
The House of Lords may not be representative of the British population but instead they represent an array of educated experts who can give informed advice on Government policy.Improve this
The House of Lords has an inbuilt conservative majority.
The traditional provenance of the House of Lords translates to an in-built Conservative majority. Even so called Liberal and Labour peers are usually conservative in their opinions. They represent a social and economic elite and seem to flaunt diversity monitoring in a house with only 181 female peers and a staggeringly low 31 peers from ethnic minorities. This unfair skew in the favour of the conservative has the power to slow down and revise legislation and is a gross misrepresentation of the British population. The House of Lords should be reformed in order to better reflect the British people so that their actions and decisions benefit the whole of society and not just their own.
 Smith, Ben, ‘Ethnic Minorities in Politics, Government and Public Life’, House of Commons Library (18 November 2008) and see http://www.parliament.uk/about/faqs/house-of-lords-faqs/lords-members/ viewed 1 June 2011
The accusation that the House of Lords is inherently conservative is an unjust accusation, as proven by their siding with the people on unpopular government policies such as student tuition fees and the 42 days detention. Today no party has a majority in the Chamber, with independent peers holding the balance of power in any vote.Improve this
Reform would strengthen the House of Lords
Reform of the House of Lords would strengthen the legitimacy of the house and therefore improve its functions. By electing the second chamber they would gain the legitimacy to not simply stall bills but reject them all together or drafts bills of their own, thus facilitating a more dynamic government, able to change. Using a different electoral technique, for example Proportional Representation with members sitting for longer periods would allow them to still be of a different composition to the House of Commons and not sway to short-term political popularity. Electing different portions at different times would also guard against a freak landslide result affecting the house’s balance. By creating a worthy opposition to the House of Commons all issues would be debated and decided upon more fairly and government would be more closely monitored.Improve this
House of Lords reform defeats the point; firstly the election process would deter many industry experts and attract political opportunists instead, thus eliminating the current worth of the House of Lords. It likely that if elected the House of Lords would simply become a mirror for the House of Commons. By being non-elected the House of Lords is free from political sways and can work in the long-term interests of the country.Improve this
The House of Lords allows a number of experts to influence government policy.
While the members of the House of Lords may represent a small section of society, they also include expert peers including lawyers, scientists, businesspeople, academics, doctors and civil servants that can balance out the sometimes short term, political opportunism present in the House of Commons. Election does not guarantee these expertise and knowledge, so having a second chamber that is appointed rather than elected improves the quality of the governance of the country.Improve this
Although a small number of members of the House of Lords are industry experts the fact remains that there is still a proportion of hereditary peers, which guarantees no expertise whatsoever. Furthermore political parties can elect peers which is simply absurd, parties should not be able to appoint their own watch dogs: David Cameron has already appointed 117 peers in less than a year.
 Barrett, Matthew, ‘Full House: Cameron warned against appointing more peers’, (20 April 2011) viewed 1 June 2011 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/parliament/2011/04/house-full.html#more
Reform would make the House of Lords simply a mirror of the House of Commons
An elected House, even one elected every ten years, would still think about policies that are popular in the short term rather than the long-term welfare of the country, making it closer to the House of Commons in its interest and reducing its role as a balance. By subjecting the second chamber to election there would be two outcomes: if elected at the same time the House of Lords would simply become a mirror-image of the House of Commons rendering it pointless, if elected mid-term the composition of the House of Lords would reflect the tendency for a government to be unpopular mid-term, thus creating gridlock and making the system unworkable. Reform of the House of Lords is impractical and undesirable.Improve this
The House of Lords could be elected on a longer term basis than the House of Commons – ten years for example. Furthermore elections could be staggered during this period so the House of Lords would never simply be a ‘mirror’. Furthermore the House of Lords should be democratically elected and it should reflect the will of the people, whether or not this is a ‘mirror’ of the other house is not relevant as it reflects the results in a fair vote. Similarly if elected mid-term and the House of Lords reflected mid-term unpopularity of the ruling party, then this too would be the will of the people – any clashes would be part of the democratic process.Improve this
Democracy should not be the end-point aspiration of government.
One should not assume that the lack of democracy is wholly negative; do the majority of people know what is best for the country? Or do industry experts? Could the public reach a consensus on important governing decisions? Government can see the bigger picture and balance the needs of different interest groups to produce the best outcome for all: ‘true’ democracy is simply unworkable and can too easily lead to the ‘tyranny of the majority’ as described by Fareed Zakaria. Perhaps the best way to illustrate this point is to look at the two champions of democracy: France and America. France overturned its monarchy and government in the name of liberty, yet quickly descended into mob-rule and violence; ‘democracy’ had a bloody birth. Similarly one only has to look at the appalling levels of inequality within the United States of America to question the nature and worth of ‘democracy’. So if the nature of government is not simply to fulfil notions of ‘democracy’ but to ensure good governance then the House of Lords is still an important institution.
 Zakaria, Fareed, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy Home and Abroad (New York, 2003)
 Doyle, William, The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001)
 American Political Science Association Task Force, ‘American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality’, Perspectives on Politics, 2 (2004)
The fear of controversy or of an ‘unworkable’ government is not reason to stall reform. If we adopt the stance that a government knows best or if we excuse a government to override the will of its people in the name of the greater good, then we pave the way for the misuse of power. Democracy should be held in the highest regard, only free societies can be secure and developed as shown in numerous historic example. Only fundamentally free societies can be fundamentally secure and developed, which is backed up by many examples from history. Democracy has proved itself as better than the alternatives, where autocracies, oligarchies and theocracies have failed, democracy has prevailed.
 Grizold, Professor Anton, Peacebuilding and the impact of post-conflict areas on European security (Department of Political Science, University of Ljublana)
The public is apathetic to reform.
Whether or not reform of the House of Lords should be a top priority in the current economic climate is debateable, let alone whether or not a coalition government would be able to initiate and drive through such measures. Attempts to reform the House of Lords have been delayed time and time again, demonstrating the House of Commons’ reservations on change. A feeling that is no doubt echoed in popular British opinion – as demonstrated by the recent outcome of the Alternative Vote – the public are either adverse to the idea of change or apathetic to it.
 Summers, Deborah, ‘Labour's attempts to reform the House of Lords’, The Guardian (27 January, 2009), viewed on 1 June 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jan/27/house-of-lords-reform
The AV campaign cannot be compared to reform to the House of Lords, furthermore one should not mistake a misinformed public due to political spin, with apathy. Often voters express that they are apathetic because they feel that they can’t change anything, that there vote won’t count: reform that ensures the people running the country are directly elected by the people would help to counter these feelings.Improve this
A Short Definition of Democracy’, viewed on 1 June 2011 http://www.democracy-building.info/definition-democracy.html
American Political Science Association Task Force, ‘American Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality’,Perspectives on Politics, 2 (2004)
Barrett, Matthew, ‘Full House: Cameron warned against appointing more peers’, (20 April 2011) viewed 1 June 2011 http://conservativehome.blogs.com/parliament/2011/04/house-full.html#more
BBC News, ‘Vote 2011: UK rejects alternative vote, 7 May 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-13297573
Doyle, William, The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2001)
Grizold, Professor Anton, Peacebuilding and the impact of post-conflict areas on European security(Department of Political Science, University of Ljublana)
Smith, Ben, ‘Ethnic Minorities in Politics, Government and Public Life’, House of Commons Library (18 November 2008) and see http://www.parliament.uk/about/faqs/house-of-lords-faqs/lords-members/viewed 1 June 2011
Summers, Deborah, ‘Labour's attempts to reform the House of Lords’, The Guardian (27 January, 2009), viewed on 1 June 2011 http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jan/27/house-of-lords-reform
Ward, Halina, ‘House of Lords Reform, long-termism and Future Generations’, (23 May 2011) viewed on 1 June 2011 http://blog.localdemocracy.org.uk/2011/05/23/house-of-lords-reform-long-termism-and-future-generations/
Zakaria, Fareed, The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy Home and Abroad (New York, 2003)
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